Quote of the Day: D-Train derailed again

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Dontrelle Willis, on handing out eight walks while allowing six runs in 3.2 innings Sunday:

Honestly, today was just unacceptable. I can’t put my team in that
type of hole. Can’t beat anybody pitching like that. It’s very tough to
pitch when you’re in a jam every inning. I’m going to have to finally
do something, or somebody else is going to have to go out there to help
this ball club win. Because I just can’t go out there and do that. You
can’t defend a walk.

I appreciate Skip giving me the leeway to go out there every time.
Every time he gives me leeway, I go one step forward and two steps
back. It’s just unacceptable, and I’m disappointed in myself the way I
played today. Just throwing the ball and making them hit it. I don’t
care what corner it is. Just go out there and establish that I can
throw the ball over the plate.

Struggling to throw strikes is nothing new for Willis, but he initially
showed some signs of potentially getting over the problem after
rejoining the Tigers’ rotation last month. However, over his last three
starts Willis has walked 18 batters in 11 innings and is sadly looking
like as big a mess as ever.

Jeremy Bonderman was quickly sent back to the disabled list
last week after struggling in his season debut, but as Willis notes in
the above quote manager Jim Leyland has been very patient with him. So
far, at least. While the Tigers are up three games in what is a weak AL
Central, they can’t afford to keep trotting Willis out there to implode
every fifth day and he might be one more rough outing from being
replaced by Zach Miner.

Rick Ankiel blazed a trail for young left-handed pitchers who
suddenly can’t throw strikes by becoming a full-time outfielder and some people are calling for
the Tigers to make the same switch with Willis. Of course, while
Willis’ career .233/.279/.358 line is really good for a pitcher it’s
also really bad for an outfielder.

Plus, even if Willis were to follow in Ankiel’s footsteps by
significantly boosting his offense after becoming a full-time hitter
the Ankiel path also included multiple seasons between pitching in the
majors and hitting in the majors. Ankiel had his Willis-like struggles
in 2001 with another brief stint as a pitcher in 2004 and became a
starting outfielder in 2007. Willis is already 27 years old, so he
doesn’t really have that kind of time.

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.